When I think about the “ideal” future of ergonomics in the workplace, the image below represents a more dynamic and innovative work environment that I think all companies should be moving towards. The “ideal” work environment is one that is fitted to the individual and allows maximal variation in work set up and flexibility with work duties. This includes having the option to work from almost any destination, be it at home, at the office or from a mobile device. The “ideal” work environment would be one that allows the worker to adjust their workstation as required to suit their specific needs. This includes the option of being able to sit or stand whilst working at the desk.
The 24 Hour Work Day – Is This Really A Healthy Way Forward
The creation of the smart phone and ipad and android tablet has meant that workers no longer just work 9-5. Workers are now literally switched on 24 hours a day and given that majority of workers have one or multiple electronic devices, workers know that their colleagues or business partners are accessible and therefore expect an immediate response almost at any time of the day or night. The issues with this is that workers find it increasingly more difficult to switch off and have down time. People are now becoming slaves to their mobile devices and finding that they are literally having a mental breakdown if they realise they have gone out somewhere and have forgot to take their phone. Surely this cannot be healthy long term.
Getting Active In The Workplace & Improving Workplace Culture
Companies are now becoming much more aware of the workers health and wellbeing and this is demonstrated by many companies now offering subsidies for gym memberships, fresh fruit in the office, comfortable rest areas in the office and many other “worker” driven special considerations. Now for those conspiracy theorists out there, you would no double say that companies only offer this stuff so that workers will be more inclined to stay at work and therefore work longer and harder. Whilst I somewhat agree with this idea, I also support any change in the workplace that encourages more healthy living through exercise, stress management and eating well. Some of the great ideas that I have seen implemented in companies that I have consulted for have provided:
- Stress management seminars.
- Nutritional seminars.
- Sit Safe Ergonomic seminars.
- Exercise classes such as outdoor personal training, yoga and pilates during lunch time and before and after work.
- Specially designed and dedicated rest areas in the workplace.
- Walking meetings that encourage workers to get outside and get fresh air whilst they work.
The Hotdesk Office Environment – Is This Good Or Bad For The Worker?
The hotdesk is where workers do not have a specific designated working space and instead must be flexible from day to day with regards to where they work. The benefit to the company is that many companies often have many more desks than actual workers and this means higher business costs due to greater business costs such as rent, office lighting and heating etc etc. So what about the benefits for the worker? Well the hot desk environment may well result in a change to how work is performed in the office. More and more workers may well be given the opportunity to have flexible working hours and the option to work from home. The big issue that I see as an Osteopath and Occupational Health & Safety Consultant is the lack of education and understanding of what needs to be done to set up a good working ergonomic environment. Most workers will probably just sit at the hot desk without adjusting the chair and equipment on the desk to suit their needs. This includes the chair, monitor position, keyboard and mouse. This may result in an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal strains and sprains due to a poor work ergonomic set up. It is my belief that all hot desks should have footrests, monitor holders and wrist supports to allow the worker to set up their desk to suit their needs. The need for worker education regarding good ergonomics is a must for any workplace thinking of changing to a “hot desk” environment.
The Issues With Working From Home
More and more employees are being given the opportunity to work from home or combine both office and working from home. The benefit of this is that workers avoid having to commute to and from work. The negative is that many workers are often found to be working from a laptop at the kitchen table. I have seen many companies encourage work from home, yet fail to provide the necessary equipment to ensure this is completed in a safe and ergonomic way. Many companies also fail to realise their responsibilities with regards to home health and safety. For those of you are contracted to work from home, be sure to chat to your HR or OHS rep about organising a home ergonomic assessment.
The Issues With Travelling And Work
Many workers are required to travel and continue their normal work duties. For the vast majority of these workers, they are given a laptop and carry bag and told to get on with it. The issue with this is that it is very difficult to actually create a sound ergonomic work set up if required to work from just a laptop. It is especially important to offer workers the ability to adjust their travelling work set up if they are required to perform more than 1-2 hours of laptop work a day. So how can this be done? Simply investing in a laptop riser, separate keyboard and mouse, the worker is able to get themselves into a more healthy seated work posture. I have attached some images sourced from the internet below that represent this.
Check out your laptop options by clicking on the link below.
A Quick Look At The Sitting & Standing Workspace
More and more companies are getting on board the height adjustable desk. The height adjustable desk (either crank or electronic) allows the worker to adjust the desk environment to allow them to work in a seated or standing posture.
The great thing about this is that workers can vary this within a couple of minutes and this allows the worker yet another way to vary their posture so to avoid static prolonged sitting or standing postures for long periods of time. The image below is one that I have sourced off the internet that demonstrates these two work set ups.
Osteopath Heath Williams is owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia Pty Ltd. Services include: Osteopathy consultations, Ergonomic & Manual Handling Training and Assessments, Functional Movement Screening and Exercise Prescription. The osteopathy clinic is located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD 3000 at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000. To find out more about Principle Four Osteopathy or Corporate Work Health Australia, please contact us at 03 9670 9290. Appointments can be made by booking online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com.